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Posts Tagged ‘lessons

Thanks to YouTube’s algorithms, I discovered a talented musician named Andrew Huang.

This is the original 24K Magic music video by Bruno Mars.


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This is Andrew Huang’s take on the same song with carrots as instruments.


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His creativity stemmed from a challenge to recreate the song about 24 carats with 24 carrots.

There is much more of Huang’s work. The videos below are Can’t Feel My Face by The Weeknd and Huang’s version using instruments at his dentist’s office.


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This creative expression could have been a combination of making the ordinary less so and learning from a painful experience. You might not feel your face after receiving numbing agents from a dentist.

Huang is undoubtedly talented and we might pick up lessons on creativity. Creativity often:

  • originates from a challenge.
  • emerges from the mundane.
  • is a different way of looking at the same problem.

Creativity might also include being able to see useful links between different domains, e.g., entertainment and education, or personal and professional. 

 
My iPad has a cover that is hanging by its threads. The dust that the cover is supposed to protect the iPad from seems to be holding everything together!

Try as I might, I cannot find the good covers from a few years ago. Stores have flimsy knockoffs or ugly covers, and one online store directed me to a Korean supplier if I wanted a good brand.

I wondered why iPad covers were so difficult to find. Then I remembered some tweets and articles I read.

For example, this was the statistic on the now low reliance of tablets for web surfing.

If you follow the data, this drop seems to be trending over the last few years.

One of the hardest hit might be the iPad. A recent article revealed that the Chromebook was the rising king in US classrooms.

Why? Some answers are generic to any educational technology, but Larry Cuban provided some clues.

Trends like these sound and feel distant. How do these matter to a decision-maker in Singapore, for example?

First, it is important to at least be aware of the data and trends. These are not always objective truths because they are subject to interpretation, but analysing and evaluating these should be the minimum due diligence of any decision-maker.

Second, the centralised purchasing trends need to be juxtaposed with BYOD trends. If teachers and students already have their own devices, the context has changed and so must rules, policies, and purchasing decisions.

If decision-makers collect data in their own schools, they will realise that the BYOD devices tend to be phones, not slates or laptops. The phones are cheaper, lighter, convenient, and essential to learners and teachers alike.

Third, and most importantly, the devices (school-provided or BYOD) need to be custom-integrated into curricula, assessment, and context. What works in one academic subject or school may not transfer to another. And if assessment remains rooted in the traditional technology of pen and paper, there will be little incentive to change.

I doubt that many will draw such extensions and lessons from missing iPad covers. But I do because I reflect on what I read on my iPad about such matters. Now back to my hunt for a replacement cover…

Last year I outlined how the poorly designed McCafe app could be used to learn design principles. Missteps and mistakes are often the best sources of learning.

My StarHub is an app that I use to check my data consumption and it is a wellspring of lessons on how NOT to design a mobile app.

The app claims to let users customise what they see. Currently, there are four fixed cards and six selectable ones. The latter are selected by default.

One cannot actually customise as 1) there are fixed selections (including ads), and 2) if deselected, the optional cards return after restarting the app.

The people behind the StarHub app might have forgotten (or do not care) that the customer likes to customise. Perhaps they need to adopt a new custom and repeat it as a mantra.

The app also breaks the old web page three-click rule. This is the rule that states that a user should be able to find what they need within three mouse clicks. In the mobile app universe, this should be a one or two tap rule given the nature of the platform.

Once I open the app, I need to make six taps to know how much data I have consumed in detail. I need to tap on:

  1. My Account.
  2. Mobile usage.
  3. The filter option (I manage and pay for my family’s numbers and mine does not appear by default and I have no option to choose my mobile number as default.)
  4. My number in the filter.
  5. The done button.
  6. Data usage to view current usage.

The app offers a minimalist graphic on main page that looks nice, but 1) it does not always appear, 2) when it does, it sometimes happens after a delay, 3) it is not detailed enough for my needs.

All this puts form over function and the needs of the designers over that of the user. This makes for a terrible app experience and I am reminded of it every time I use it.

Designers of user interfaces should be familiar with the concept of user-centric design. I wish more were passionate about the practice of the same. This is particularly important for designers of educational apps, especially those that provide access to content and learning management systems. No one wants angry, frustrated, or anxious users even before the learning begins.

Today I share three videos I had in a YouTube playlist that hold lessons for those of us in schooling and education.
 

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The lesson is not so much that what kids learn in school now is more complicated that what we had to learn when we were their age. It is that much of what we learn in schools is pointless and not memorable.
 
 

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You can combine the old with the new, but if the old is mindset or baggage while the new is tools or instruments, the old drive and determine what the new does. The outside looks flashy until you see the inside in action.
 
 

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You are never too old to try something new. You can choose to be stubborn or fearful or you can put yourself in a situation where you have to try. When you do, you might just surprise yourself and learn something new.

A fallacy is a popular or common misconception.

One PokémonGo fallacy is that the game is social. If it was, some people would not be able to complain about the PokémonGo zombies that seem to walk around blindly with their phones.
 

 
The game is not inherently social, but that does not mean that is not social at all. PokémonGo zombies are not the only species of players. There are boyfriend-girlfriend pairs, friends in small groups, family units, and friendly fans.

I spotted one boyfriend-girlfriend pair embracing at a mall while looking over their shoulders at their phones and flicking at Pokémon. They caught each other and were catching PokémonGo while out on a Poké date. This blog does not discuss any other form of poking.

The friend and family units are common too, especially at parks. They will chatter about strategies, alert one another about rare Pokémon appearances, share the joy of eggs hatching, and perhaps discuss the ethics of Pokémon recycling. Maybe not the last one.

The best social experiences are serendipitous.

My son and I were out one day to collect Poké balls at Poké stops when a Seel appeared on the game radar. As my son did not have one yet, he got excited. The problem was that we did not know exactly where it was.

I activated my Go Radar app, but before it could ping the Seel, a student who heard us talking about it ran over and asked us if we were Seel hunting. He then told us where he caught his.

I thanked him for telling us and we made our way to the site of the last Seel sighting. My son and I bagged a Seel each.

That student had information and shared it generously even though he did not need to. He did not hoard information just in case of some imaginary zombie apocalypse.

The lesson here is that it is good to share openly because there so much to give. And when you get, you need to give back in return. This might sound surprising, but some teachers need to be reminded of that.
 

 
Another lesson, particularly for teachers who wish to use PokémonGo for teaching content, is NOT to. Not in an uncritical way at least.

PokémonGo may be a fun hook, but it does not guarantee accurate information or critical thinking*. However, the very same fallacies it sells might be leveraged to teach content and model critical thinking.

For example, PokémonGo allows you to “evolve” a proto-Pokémon to a higher form. This is nowhere near any form of evolution in terms of concept or time. A better term might be “metamorphosis”, e.g., when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. This is teaching by correcting fallacies, citing non-examples and examples, and sharing more accurate information.

The non-negotiable and more valuable aspect of doing this is teaching critical thinking. The concepts of evolution and metamorphosis may be forgotten, but the type and strategy of thinking must remain. This skillset is far more valuable than the content knowledge alone.

*If the point is to promote creative thinking, then knock yourself out by embracing the fallacies. Though it must be said that creative and critical thinking are better as co-joined twins.

Doduo

My reflection starts with an Apple Pay verification process and ends with lessons on teaching and assessment.
 

 
When Apple Pay launched in Singapore in May, I jumped on the bandwagon by verifying one of my credit cards. The process was quick and painless: Scan the card details into the Wallet app and verify the card by SMS.

I tried the process with another eligible card, but did not receive SMS verification. I put that down to early implementation issues.

However, I tried about ten times between the launch in May and this month and was still unsuccessful. The Wallet app provided the alternative verification process of calling the credit card issuing bank’s customer service.

I dread using such customer “service” because the process make me feel like a rat being tested in a maze.
 

 
I had to get through several layers of number pressing before getting the option to speak with a human. Once there, I was informed that they were “experiencing a high call volume”.

I missed having an old phone that I could slam down on the receiver.

This particular bank provided the option of leaving my contact number so that I would receive a call-back in four hours. That must have been some really high call volume!

I received one shortly before the four-hour mark and explained how I did not receive SMS verification for Apple Pay from that bank’s system. I also mentioned that I had done the verification for another bank’s card quickly and seamlessly with the same process.

The customer service representative (CSR) was puzzled, checked the messaging records, and told me that SMS had been sent to my phone. I wanted to reply that I was not an idiot, but I bit my tongue. I repeated that I did not receive any despite several attempts over two months.

The CSR then advised me not to use my bank-issued security dongle. I told him that the dongle was irrelevant because it was not a verification option in Apple’s Wallet app. So he said he needed to look into my case and asked if he could call me back in an hour.

As soon we disconnected, something connected. A long time ago, I blocked a few of the bank’s SMS numbers because I kept getting marketing messages despite telling them I did not want any. I wondered if the SMS verification shared one of those numbers.

I figured out how to unblock the numbers and tested the SMS verification for that bank card. It worked as quickly as my first card.

The was not the fault of the bank. It was mine for blocking numbers, irritating as their messages were.

I reminded myself of two lessons on teaching:

  1. You should not just stick to a script. It is important to first listen to the learner’s problem before suggesting a learning solution. The CSR’s advice to not use the dongle was obviously part of a recommended script, but it was irrelevant in this context. Mentioning the dongle not only did not help matters, it added to my frustration.
  2. Thinking out loud is one of the best ways to learn. I knew what the symptom of my problem was (no SMS from the bank), but I did not know its root cause (I had blocked some SMS numbers). Speaking to someone helped me pull thoughts to the surface and helped me find my own solutions.

When the CSR called back, I explained how I had solved the problem myself. He was relieved. I was relieved.

Right after we disconnected, he triggered an SMS to me to rate the customer service by text. It was like being pranked.

Bank SMS.

I did not respond to the SMS because the ratings were too coarse: Below, Meet, Exceed.

The phone service took place over more than one call and had multiple components. Averaging the experience was not meaningful. Detailed feedback on what was good or not good about the experience and analysing a recording of the exchanges are more tedious but better options.

I thought of two lessons on assessment:

  1. The administrative need to collect and collate data drives such bad practice. Just because you collect these data does not make the data meaningful or help CSRs improve. Administrative needs should not drive assessment.
  2. The average rating approach is a hallmark of summative assessment. It is grading an experience. If the CSR received “Exceed”, did he get a pat on the back? If the feedback was “Meet”, would he just keep reading from scripts? If the grade was “Below”, what can he do with that information? Good assessment is based on quality feedback, not just grades.

It does not take special events, teacher observations, prescribed professional development, or even a personal learning network to learn how to teach or assess better. The lessons and reminders are everywhere, even in the Apple Pay card verification process. You just have to pay attention.

I am critical of vendors looking from the outside claiming they have solutions for schools. I am all for educators transferring principles they apply from the wider world to change what happens in schools. But I wonder how many bother to look or know how to look.

Here is an example. I share a mundane experience and then suggest in italics what educators might learn.
 

 

Like the majority of Singaporeans, I need spectacles to correct myopia. So do my wife and son. Replacing our glasses is an expensive affair.

I noticed a new chain of stores that promised to not only offer lower prices but to also make replacement lenses in about half an hour.

With free or low-cost technology, you can reach learners with much less traditional effort.

My wife and I wandered into one branch while in town, ordered ourselves new pairs of glasses, and arranged to collect them at a branch near where we stay.

Teaching and learning does not have to happen in one place. Going to where the learner is at socially and pedagogically is easy with today’s technology.

The spectacle chain is thorough with their eye examinations, their staff are polite, and the lenses prepared overseas. The price breakdowns are clear: There is the basic set and several add-ons (like the type of lenses) that increase the cost of a pair of glasses.

Treat people nicely and communicate simply and clearly. Your resources need not be created in-house; they can be outsourced or curated.

Easy pairs of spectacles are done on the spot. More customised glasses like the ones with progressive, transition, or high-index lenses take about two weeks to make.

Communicate performance expectations clearly and keep your promises.

The chain contacted me by SMS when the glasses were ready. I visited the store they promised I could pick them up at and was very pleased with my new spectacles.

Again, go where the learners are at. Communicate with media and strategies that they are already using.

I asked if they could replace my son’s lenses but keep his current frame. The processing and eye examination probably took more time than the grinding of the lenses.

Meet the learners where they are. Technology allows customisation and you can learn how to go with the flow.

I received two $30 discount coupons on my first purchase. I applied one coupon to the first purchase and the other to the second. I received a $10 discount coupon with the second purchase for a subsequent purchase.

Incentivise logically. While many “gamify” by withholding benefits, this chain illustrated a strategy of giving. Giving away on a social media PLN, for example, does not make you poorer. It increases your reputational capital if you create value.

Do you see what I see? Or do you need a pair of special glasses?


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